Clare County Council has turned down a €54 million project proposed by Clare Winds Ltd., saying it is not convinced the wind farm would not have a negative impact on the Freshwater Pearl Mussel Margaritifera margaritifera population in the Doonbeg River. The proposed scheme involved the installation of 12 wind turbines near the village of Kilmihil.
In 2013, An Bord Pleanála also refused planning permission to a 2011 plan to construct a €200m 45 turbine wind-farm in the Doonbeg River catchment, and the same board also recently rejected a nine-turbine wind farm proposal by Clare Coastal Wind Power Ltd on the same grounds, namely the impact on Freshwater Pearl Mussels in the river.
Clare Winds Ltd., has the option to file an appeal with An Bord Pleanála, however it is clear that it is challenging to obtain approval for a wind farm in this catchment.
Although the Freshwater Pearl Mussel is listed under Annex II (and V) of the EU Habitats Directive, the Doonbeg River is not designated as a Special Area of Conservation for this species. The Doonbeg River drains into the the Carrowmore Dunes SAC, which is designated for Reefs, dune habitats and the Narrow-mouthed Whorl Snail Vertigo angustior. The Freshwater Pearl Mussel is considered to be critically endangered in Ireland and Europe, and the Doonbeg River is known to hold a significant population of this species. However, it is a catchment with many problems and – it could be argued – little real protection, except in relation to these planning refusals.
The Doonbeg River catchment already has many pressures, such as agricultural and forestry activities. The river is also subject to dredging and other impacts such as illegal bridge construction and fisheries “development” works. It is certainly feasible that a wind energy development in this catchment, and with associated mitigation, could actually improve conditions for Freshwater Pearl Mussels. Often you will find that particular wind farm sites are already a source of silt into a Freshwater Pearl Mussel catchment, and that the implementation of erosion and sediment control measures on the site could potentially contribute to the rehabilitation of a catchment for this species. Lands acquired or leased by wind farm developers present opportunities to implement measures to improve water quality in downstream areas.
For further information on the current refusal, and the previous refusals of proposed wind farms in the Doonbeg River catchment, please see these links:-
- Wind farm planning denied due to pearl mussel in Clare
- Doonbeg Wind Farm refused planning
- Pearl mussel blows wind farm plans away
- Trump shows mussels to win battle against wind farm
Despite many wind farms being refused planning permission recently in Freshwater Pearl Mussel catchments like the Doonbeg River, our company has had a high degree of success to date in getting such applications approved. We don’t see that the presence of Freshwater Pearl Mussels in a catchment should automatically preclude the development of wind farms. Indeed, with a well-considered and combined approach to water quality protection at wind farm development sites, there are possibilities for reducing threats (nutrient enrichment, pollution incidents, and erosion) and gaining improvements in water quality with positive implications for Freshwater Pearl Mussel populations in catchments, such as the Doonbeg River.
For further information please do not hesitate to contact us, and also refer to these articles and pages on our main website:-
- Freshwater Pearl Mussels and Wind Farms
- Freshwater Ecology Services provided by ECOFACT
- Surveys of Irish Natura 2000 rivers, Summer 2015
If you have any concerns regarding a proposed development in a Freshwater Pearl Mussel catchment please do not hesitate to contact us and we will put you in touch with one of our in-house Freshwater Pearl Mussel experts.